2008 was a key year for superhero movies. In the span of a few months, Marvel Studios launched its cinematic universe with Iron Man while DC reached its highest point with The dark knight which could be said that he never managed to overcome. But sandwiched between these two industry-defining movies, another superhero movie offered a different perspective. More than a decade later, perhaps Will Smith’s take on the genre was correct all along.
Years ahead of his time, Hancock it was a rebuttal of superhero movies before the genre became so big that it needed to be rebutted at all. And while this Will Smith vehicle falls apart a bit in its story-heavy final act, it’s still worth a look if you need a break from the current Marvel/DC offerings.
But before you click on Netflix, here’s why Hancock is worth watching (or rewatching) and what you need to know first.
Directed by Friday night lights co-creator Peter Berg based on a screenplay by Vince Gilligan (yes, that Vince Gilligan), Hancock tells the story of a superhero whose main trait is being terrible at his job. Will Smith’s John Hancock may have super strength, invulnerability and the power of flight, but he also has a serious drinking problem. The people of Los Angeles (where he does most of his “crime fighting”) hate him, and he hates them too.
Things take a turn for the better when Hancock meets Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a PR expert who offers to help restore the superhero’s image. As part of the plan, Hancock agrees to go to jail, which backfires when crime in the city skyrockets in his absence. He is soon released and violently detains a criminal, earning praise from a now adoring public.
the first half of Hancock it’s endlessly fun to watch. Will Smith plays a superhero with a mix of arrogance and pathos that only the Fresh Prince of Bellaire could pull off. You’ll hate and love the character, who borrows the most interesting ideas from icons like Iron Man and Batman (his inner demons from him) without bothering with the more complicated stuff.
Until, in its third act, that’s exactly what the movie does.
After saving the day, Hancock celebrates by having dinner with Ray and his wife Mary (Charlize Theron), who happens to also be a superhero. He then proceeds to reveal her complex origin story. I won’t bore you with the details, but the gist is that the longer these two stay in close contact, the weaker their powers become. This gives the film some real stakes in its final scenes, but it also muddies the original concept of a belligerent superman by overloading everything with ancient lore. Ultimately, it’s not enough to ruin the movie, but it’s enough for you to go through it in your head before the credits roll.
But that doesn’t mean Hancock not worth watching In a world where we’re served literally every conceivable version of superhero history at all times, it’s fascinating to watch Will Smith make his decision a decade before superhero saturation. Before Deadpool and the Boys, there was John Hancock.
Over the years, there have been various reports of a possible sequel, with Charlize Theron most recently expressing interest and admitting that no real progress has been made. But maybe that’s for the better. Hancock 2 It would probably just delve into the lore of this universe, undermining what made the original such a clever rebuttal of all the superhero movies that were soon to come.
Hancock is streaming now on Netflix.